Clinton attends her first NATO foreign ministers’ meeting

March 5th, 2009 - 3:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaBrussels, March 5 (DPA) US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels Thursday for talks with fellow foreign ministers on the alliance’s strategy in Afghanistan and on its intention to re-engage with Russia.
The meeting is the first by the new chief diplomat of the US, whose allies expect her to offer a listening ear while in Brussels.

It takes place as the administration of President Barack Obama prepares to deploy 17,000 additional troops in Afghanistan and is busy putting the finishing touches to its strategic review of the war against the Taliban insurgency.

NATO officials said much of Thursday morning’s discussions would be devoted to beefing up the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and finalising its role in providing security during the Aug 20 presidential and provincial elections.

At the same time, foreign ministers were widely expected to endorse a recommendation by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer that the alliance resume direct talks with Russia.

“I hope for a positive outcome and for a re-engagement with Russia,” the NATO chief said as he arrived at NATO’s headquarters.

The main forum for NATO talks with Russia, the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), was suspended by the alliance in the aftermath of Russia’s August invasion of Georgia and Moscow’s subsequent recognition of the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

But there is now a consensus within the 26-member alliance that such meetings should resume.

De Hoop Scheffer said Thursday that he would like to see NRC meetings resume “sooner rather than later”.

But officials from concerned Eastern European nations close to Russia, such as Lithuanian Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas, said staging formal NRC talks was still “a bit premature”.

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